Ponderings: “Just” a Bible

I don’t want anyone to misunderstand this post.  I am not calling for an abandonment of “study Bibles.”  If I did that, I would have to have a big bonfire in my backyard.  I have accumulated a shelf (or more) of them over the years.  Each has proved to be of value in some part of my spiritual formation.

But a while back, the Inner Voice seemed to be saying, “How about ‘just’ a Bible?”  How about a Bible that only has “bible words” in it?  How about a direct reading of Scripture, rather than through the words of someone else?

The questions “rippled” into some other shelves in my library—all my “devotional books”—the books (many of them written by significant influencers in my formation) that “comment” on some bible passage.

How about “just” reading the Bible?  The question stuck.

Like a person addicted to cigarettes, I have “cut way back” on my use of study bibles and devotional books.  It has felt like removing clutter.  It has created more of a straight line between God’s Word and my life.  It has forced me to listen to the Spirit more than Oswald Chambers, or some other valued spiritual guide. Without realizing it, or intending it, I had drifted into paying more attention to their words than to THE Word.

This blog is really a testimony, not a criticism—and surely not a universal mandate.  I only want to bear witness that a direct reading of the Bible yields good spiritual food.  The interaction between the Holy Spirit and my spirit creates a “devotional experience” that does not require a third-party to produce it.

Here’s the part I would like for you to consider.  Use whatever secondary resources that you find valuable in your spiritual formation.  But use them only AFTER you have allowed the Bible to make its direct impression in your mind and heart.  In other words, don’t use the secondary materials to “create” the devotional experience.  I tell you it can happen if all you have is “just” a Bible.

About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 45 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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2 Responses to Ponderings: “Just” a Bible

  1. Rick Shell says:

    All I can say is a hearty AMEN!!

  2. Larry Teasley says:

    Ironically, this is what I heard in my homiletics and hermeneutics classes. Spend time in Scripture before going to the commentaries, lexicons, concordances, etc. If we should spend quality time in the Word before preparing a sermon or study which is intended to aid someone else’s spriritual formation, should we do no less for our own? Your point is well taken. Steve, thank you for your faithful, yet penetrating, testimony.

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